What am I doing here?

Much to my own astonishment I will soon have sent over 1000 tweets.  In a the space of about 15 months I have dramatically expanded my twitter activity and reach. While the numbers are still modest in terms of the Twiterverse at large, for me the reality of over one hundred followers and just under 100 people I follow – is slow to sink in.  Imagine meeting up with all of your followers in person at one time – what kind of space would you need?  A classroom, small lecture hall, an auditorium, a high school stadium?

About 4 years ago when my tech-savvy teenage son was still living at home, I asked him, “What’s Twitter?”  He chuckled and said it’s like “shouting random messages into cyberspace.”  Then he added, “it’s pretty pointless.”  That was good enough for me. It saved me from having to delve any further.

Once I joined Twitter in the summer of 2013 I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was not at all as pointless as my son had estimated. As an educator, I was thrilled to find the richness of the conversations in progress – on everything from #edreform to #SEL (social and emotional learning) to the #futureof school.  And the more I read,  greater became my own desire to contribute.  I started by responding to a few blog posts, then writing more on my own blog. It became a cycle: catch a great link – retweet – write a blog response – tweet that – read more and so on.

Now nearing the 1000 tweet mark, I ask myself: What am I doing here?

When I started I was all about drinking it in: lurking, consuming, stockpiling.  And now?

  • I have made writing a priority. This post may become #93. The number of people who read what I’ve written varies tremendously but I do know this: Every time I post, at least one other person reads it besides me. And that is reason enough. Through followers of the blog and on Twitter, almost 200 people receive notice that I’ve put something out there. In the event of a powerful retweet, then the possible audience can grow into the thousands.  But that’s not the point. Daring to write, to say what I want to say and to offer it to whoever’s game – that is the priority that matters.
  • I pay attention to people and ideas.  I feel strongly about some things: student-centered education, social justice, and every intersection of those themes. Most of the people I actively follow are generally tied to one or all of those themes.  There may be others who offer perspectives slightly outside those distinct realms and add to my understanding of topics which influence my primary areas of interest, such as: tech industry happenings and political trends.
  • I am here to connect the dots.  The Twitterverse and internet are chock full of billions of disparate dots. From my little corner, I see but a miniscule fraction of those dots, by choice.  At the same time, those dots within my view may produce unusual and beautiful patterns. My joy lies in drawing connections from people to ideas, and ideas to ideas.  I’m a big fan of cross-pollination.
  • The excellent people I meet and the wealth of their contributions are why I stay.    About a month ago I conducted a sort of self-assessment of myself a s a coach and in that process I identified the type of people I appreciate and seek out as partners for collaboration. They “dare to diverge, show a degree of mental, emotional and physical fitness, have HUMOR, have a growth and change agenda, and demonstrate brave intentionality.”  It may or may not surprise you, but I have met more people who fit this description within the last year than in the previous 10 years. Some I have met through social media and others locally. The key is that “what I appreciate appreciates” and in terms of remarkable acquaintances, this maxim has delivered handsomely.

Twitter is by no means single-handedly responsible for all this good stuff. Rather, Twitter has provided a easy-to-navigate platform where I can meet and interact with individuals and groups who add value to my learning and understanding.  Now that I am even clearer about my purpose in populating and shaping my sliver of the Twitterverse, I can take even greater ownership of the role I want to play and how I can best serve the interests of these new connections I have welcomed into my life.

 

Special thanks for this post go to Dan Rockwell, Leadership Freak, who kindly asked me way back in August 2013 what I wanted to do with my social media engagement when I requested his sage advice for beginners.

 

 

What I Know Now About Twitter and Blogging That I Didn’t Know A Year Ago

393 Tweets in.

78 Blog posts deep.

About a year ago I took the dive into Twitter and also began using my blog to express what I could not manage in under 140 characters. What I know now about Twitter and blogging is much more than what I knew just a short year ago.

In no particular order, here’s my list:

  1. Twitter has become my go-to source for excellent content. And actually it is content that comes to me through excellent links shared by the people I follow.
  2. Those people I follow and who follow me, I understand, comprise what is known as my Professional or Personal Learning Network (PLN).
  3. It often frustrates me to decipher unfamiliar abbreviations found in my twitter feed and so I try to make sure I spell them out once if I have the space before continuing to use them.
  4. I am excited about tapping into the wealth of knowledge and expertise I have found both within my PLN and beyond.
  5. I love the fact that my PLN is growing gradually. This has allowed me to acclimate in manageable steps. I’m still learning how to use lists to help with prioritizing. That may become important down the road.
  6. Surprising fact: Educators make up one of the largest groups of twitter users. I made it to the party and it has been so worth it!
  7. It’s possible to search for stuff on twitter using the right hashtags. What comes up is often more interesting and nuanced than what a typical Google search might yield.
  8. My blog posts get read by many more people if the links are retweeted by an individual or organization with many followers.
  9. If a link is very important to you, it makes sense to tweet it out more than once and address it to people you value, who perhaps have more and different followers than you have and may retweet.
  10. When you read a controversial article or post, read the comments, too, in order to really broaden and clarify your thinking.  I have sometimes found comments that were better formulated and argued than the original post.
  11. There is space for my input. To my surprise, there are people who are interested in hearing and seeing what I choose to contribute. I would have never have known this if I hadn’t taken the risk in the first place.
  12. Thanks to my PLN I have learned new skills and found all kinds of apps, tools and resources to expand my tech repertoire.
  13. I live under the influence of a “variable interval reinforcement schedule.”  This means that all of this digital messaging via twitter and e-mail is impacting my brain circuitry so that yes, I’m a little addicted.  The occasional yet unpredictable reward of finding a like on my blog post, or a new follower, or a retweet, keeps me coming back to check both the twitter feed and my inbox far more regularly than is actually necessary.  I want to wrestle with this a little more in the coming year.
  14. I have never done a #ff. (Friday follow = people you would recommend following) So I’ll do it here as a year’s worth: @RafranzDavis, @tomwhitby, @plugusin, @theJLV, @TeachThought, @Edutopia, @grantlichtman, @artofcoaching1, @gcouros, @AngelaWatson, @TeacherSabrina.
  15. It has only been a year and yet the learning has been rich, deep, exciting, and compelling.  I’m in. Let’s see what the next year brings.

A Learning Timeline

Yesterday I needed help on a project so I put out a request to my PLN on twitter.

To which Sarah responded:

I did a little research on twitter and came up with interesting options such as paper.li, and this list (perhaps somewhat dated: 2012 (!)) from daily tekk.

Based on Sarah’s suggestions, however, it didn’t take long before I settled on Flipboard and began putting together my first personal magazine of curated content.

It is a source of surprise and amazement to me that yesterday I created this.

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Using Flipboard on my iPad proved extremely easy, intuitive and straightforward.  I had no problem locating and positioning the content I wanted to share.  I did not need to bother with formatting issues. The credits show up immediately as to who tweeted what, when and where they got it from and it is always easy to add more content or start a new magazine. I can hardly describe how liberating it was to feel competent, at ease and free to create without experiencing the  decisional overload that I typically encounter with publishing software.   At the end of the day I was blown away by the beauty of my first Flipboard magazine.  The content of the mag is what I feel strongly about and yet what resonated first with me was the highly professional and polished visual impression.

There’s more to this story.
While engrossed in my Flipboard project, this tip arrived:

So without much ado, once I finished the Flipboard, I moved on to explore Tackk.  And while Tackk offered a different user experience, I discovered a new resource I will gladly use and share with colleagues and friends.

There a few key points in this whole episode which are worth highlighting:

  • The process began with a clear and specific request for help.
  • Experience has been a great teacher.  I have used this technique before (ask the PLN, get a lead, run with it) with tremendous success.
  • I contacted specific people whose expertise I trust.
  • Throughout the process I received support, encouragement and positive feedback. (Sarah’s cheerleading was the bomb!)  And…
  • I surprised myself with my sense of adventure and willingness to risk confusion and disappointment. In fact, I got really excited about experimenting and sharing my work-in-progress with pride.

Once again, I look at my learning and think about what made this process a successful endeavor: positive relationships, a clear goal, an open mind, knowing where to look for help, acting on wise suggestions, time and space to follow through, and a finished product which can be evaluated and shared.

This is Project Based Learning on a small scale and it is real world adult personal and professional learning.  Are we seeing the connection here?

What does you personal PBL look like? I’d love to hear about it.

 

 

 

A Twitter Recipe for Learning

A few days ago I had a question. It had to do with tech and I decided to ask some twitter friends for ideas. I wanted to know if I could collect the links I tweeted on Evernote. See the tweets below.

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I promptly received an answer: go check out IFTTT.com and make a recipe.
So that’s what I did and when I arrived it felt like I had just entered a sort of tech facilitating candy store.

IFTTT stands for “If This, Then That” and what it offers is a platform for for creating recipes for apps to trigger and carry out actions on one another. I want my twitter account to talk to my Evernote files and IFTTT makes it possible.
Here’s my recipe:

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What’s cool is that you can create all sorts of recipes to meet your individual needs. On the website itself I fully enjoyed the absolutely user-friendly interface, no-fail, step-by-step instructions, and a generally a remarkably upbeat, encouraging user experience. I understood almost immediately how to define what I wanted and how to make it happen. And once it was all set up, within an hour I had a two new notes on Evernote documenting the links I had tweeted out.

Imagine that: I got what I asked for easily, with smiles and a whole lot of satisfaction. That’s product. Asking questions, tapping into resources, making new discoveries, and sharing the experience: that’s process, which in this case involved real people, offering real support in real time with the aid of some useful digital tools.  Sounds a bit like a recipe – for learning.  Power and powerful.

Huge thanks go to Beth Still for responding and sharing. Kudos to IFTTT.com for designing an excellent platform for users to become inventive in meeting their mobile tech needs.